In its recent report, the United Nations Human Rights Committee has called on the Netherlands to strengthen investigation efforts concerning the whereabouts of 1,600 child asylum-seekers who disappeared from refugee centres in the last four and a half years.
As of June 2019, an estimated 1,600 refugee children have gone missing from refugee centres. While some children have reportedly been taken in by family members in Germany, Belgium, and France, refugee agencies fear that most of the children have been exploited by criminal networks and pushed into street crime and prostitution.
The UN Human Rights Committee’s report outlines the urgency for further action by the Dutch government in investigating ‘the phenomenon of missing unaccompanied minors’, and addressing ‘its underlying causes [to] prevent such future occurrences’. The Committee also calls on the government to reform refugee family centres by improving living conditions and ensuring that ‘the best interests of the child is given primary consideration in all asylum requests involving children’.
The report also highlights increasing instances of migrant workers flowing in from Eastern Europe as a point of concern. Migrant labourers are often exploited by employment agencies and work in inhumane and discriminatory conditions. According to estimates, currently 250,000 Polish, Romanian and Bulgarian people work in the Netherlands, often on short-term contracts for a very low salary. Poland’s ambassador to the Netherlands recently called out recruitment agencies on the abuse of Dutch labour laws in order to exploit migrant workers.
To tackle the issue, the UN calls on the Dutch government ‘to set up an effective complaints procedure so that migrant workers, including undocumented migrants, can file complaints about being exploited, without fear of deportation’. Furthermore, according to the UN, the government should carry out inspections in all of the sectors migrants work in.